Around 1900 most photographers were still indoors, producing studio shots against artificial backdrops. Reuben R. Sallows however, chose to abandon the stiff photographs of the studio and take his camera out to the fields and farms of his native Colborne Township, near Goderich.
He showed life at the turn of the century, capturing the informal portraits that made him one of the more celebrated photographers of his day.
Often his photographs included several of his own children, notably Florence, D. D. (Darius Doty) and Verna. Several residents of Huron County also became recurring subjects. Among these individuals is Jonathan Miller – the genial innkeeper and “all round good citizen” of the community.
Jonathan Miller was born in the small rural village of Benmiller, which received its name from his uncle Ben Miller, who along with his siblings were among the first settlers of this community. Here the family operated a hotel, sawmill and a grist mill. Jonathan Miller succeeded his uncle in the management of the hotel and continued in the business until he moved to Goderich to take charge of the Albion hotel.
His friendliness and kindness made him a popular hotel-keeper with travelers staying at the successive hotels he ran during his career - the Benmiller hotel, the Albion and later the Bedford hotels in Goderich, the Grip House in Seaforth, plus the hotel in Carlow.
Jonathan Miller was also well-known throughout the community because of his enormous size, which at the time of his death at age 61, on November 25, 1904, was recorded at 465 pounds.
A frequent subject of photographs taken by Reuben R. Sallows, postcard images of Jonathan Miller were sold as far away as Great Britain.
Taking a Closer Look
Years before his death Sallows wrote: “I always strive to take people unawares, in their natural moods, at their common callings, or in familiar surroundings – all of which I find imparts natural and lifelike qualities to all my studies.” This distinctive quality appears evident in his photographs of Jonathan Miller.
Throughout his life, Mr. Miller was described as a “genial innkeeper and all round good citizen” who enjoyed the esteem of travelers visiting his hotels as well as the citizens of the communities in which he conducted business. Studying the portraits Reuben Sallows created of him, several of which were made into postcards, look carefully at his pose, clothing and behavior. Do you think these images reflect these qualities? How?
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